The Six Nations fixture between Ireland and Italy in Dublin on 7 March should not take place due to the risk posed by the coronavirus, the health minister of Ireland has said.
China has reported 77,658 cases and 2,663 deaths following the outbreak of the virus that has spread to a variety of countries, including Italy where authorities have swiftly put in restrictions. As a result, the Department of Health in Ireland’s National Public Health Emergency Team recommended the game should be postponed following a meeting on Tuesday afternoon.
“The very clear view of the public health emergency team was that this game should not go ahead and that it would constitute a significant risk, because a very large number of people will be travelling from what is now an affected region,” the Irish health minister, Simon Harris, told RTE news. “So my department will be contacting the IRFU [Irish Rugby Football Union] in relation to this.
“I know [it will] cause a great disappointment to many, but it is important to make decisions in relation to public health above and beyond all other considerations.”
In response the IRFU released a statement calling for an urgent meeting with Harrison in order to get the “specific reasoning behind calling for the cancellation of the Ireland v Italy fixture in the context of the Government’s overall travel policy to and from Italy and other affected countries.”
It continued: “Until such time as the IRFU has had contact with the Minister and gets an understanding of the government’s strategic policy on travel to and from Ireland and the cancellation of mass gatherings, it is not in a position to comment further.”